It was another banner year for music.
My collection this year contains 55 albums from 2013, and my love of lossless audio continues unabated. The collection of new music covers 8 major genres (plus comedy, where 3 albums land). Progressive continues to top my musical interest list, followed closely by traditional and extreme metal. This year I added a substantial amount of music in the pop/electronic area, including back-filling a bunch of long-lost or new-to-me music from years gone by.
Let's dig in.
Genre: Pop & Electronic
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Not counting soundtracks and live albums, it's been a decade since Daft Punk released anything... and, realistically, their 2001 album Discovery is probably what they're best known for. It's surprising, then, how dramatically they changed the formula for Random Access Memories: it reads like it's lifted straight from the 70's rock playbook. The guest musicians really lent a great new style infusion on this record. While Get Lucky with Farrell Williams was the big hit, I much preferred the opening track.
Armin Van Buuren - Intense
The team room (via Matthew) at work introduced me to Armin Van Buuren, and I immediately bought a big chunk of the back catalog. His albums "A State of Trance" are less a collection of songs and more albums full of constant musical transitions, whereas his personal albums feel more like individual songs. The collaborations are excellent mental coding fuel.
Kaskade - Atmosphere
Yet another one introduced to me by Matthew, this tends a little bit more towards the pure pop side but still offering a decent dose of the electronic feel that keeps me interested.
I was one of the many Dream Theater fans that was disappointed to learn of Mike Portnoy's departure from the band. Their first album with new drummer Mike Mangini was good but somewhat unremarkable. Their latest self-titled album dispelled the fears that A Dramatic Turn of Events had left me with, thinking that their best years were behind them. Far from it, this new album is their best in more than a decade for sure; Mangini proves is not only up to the task of time keeper, but in many ways, his writing surpasses the later work of Portnoy.
Queensrÿche had a very public splitting in two during 2012, with founder and lead singer Geoff Tate separating from the organization to form a new band named... Queensrÿche. Yes, there are two Queensrÿche albums released this year, and the Tate affair (Frequency Unknown) was -- in no uncertain terms -- a musical turd. The rest of the band teamed up with Todd La Torra to release their second self-titled album, a much more interesting and relevant record. With track titles like "Redemption", "Vindication", and "Don't Look Back", it's hard to miss the animosity. :)
Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused to Sing
Porcupine Tree front man Steven Wilson has released his second full length solo album, and it's sonic delight, as you'd expect. The opening track literally had my jaw on the floor during the first listen as it melded 70's prog rock, jazz and modern rock... and then the flute kicked in. Just... wow.
TesseracT - Altered State
I continue to remain enthralled with the unpredictable, beautiful sounds of TesseracT, the British band that effortlessly merges ethereal style and modern prog metal.
Fleshgod Apocalypse - Labyrinth
It's almost impossible to anticipate and appreciate the impact of what it means to combine brutal technical death metal with orchestral arrangements. This album, unlike most of those in my favorites list for the year, is extremely situational; I can't just put it on any time and expect to enjoy it. When those moments are right, though, there's literally nothing like it in the world.
Ashes of Ares
Former Iced Earth vocalist Matt Barlow has landed in a new band. If you're looking for something to supplement the heavy metal classics of the 90's, this is definitely the album you've been waiting for.
Amon Amarth - Deceiver of the Gods
Let's be honest: Viking Death Metal is pretty niche-y. So how is that every Amon Amarth album, despite having the same fundamental building blocks, ends up sounding fresh and interesting? Mystery of the universe, and my ears are the happy recipients.
Genre: Rock & Folk
Alter Bridge - Fortress
On the surface, there's a lot to dislike about a band whose inevitable description has to start with "It's like Creed, but...", except that the devil's in the details. Swapping out dufus Scott Stapp for vocal gymnast Myles Kennedy, and writing that's excellent, leaves you with a band that's just plain enjoyable as a dirty little secret.
Dave Grohl - Sound City
Foo Fighters front man and former Nirvana member is known for musical collaborations. His metal album Probot was an absolute favorite of mine. When I heard he was teaming up with some rock's biggest super stars, I knew it would be magical... and truth is, even that didn't prepare the world for how amazing the album is. Drink in this beautiful Stevie Nicks vehicle with Taylor Hawkins in attendance.
Blake Noble - Underdog
I stumbled across Blake Noble on Kickstarter. I was looking for things to sponsor from local Seattle-area projects, and I was entranced by this Australian transplant's music. I immediately sponsored the album and was not in the least disappointed with the result. This is a fantastic blending of world folk and just down home rock grooves.